Movie Review – Star Wars: Episode I: The Phantom Menace 3D

A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away… George Lucas made millions of fans happy with the announcement that STAR WARS was coming back.  Then he made millions of fan boys angry by serving up 3 not-so-great films.

I will always come down in favor of the prequel trilogy.  No, they weren’t necessarily the films I wanted.  Yes, they are full of problems.  The story of Anakin Skywalker’s turn to the dark side of the force and eventual rebirth as Darth Vader should be epic and glorious, and mesmerizing.  Unfortunately, the journey is bogged down by far to much political maneuvering (which believe it or not, I actually enjoy those scenes, as Palpatine is my favorite character in the new trilogy), Scooby-Doo sub plots, annoying animated characters, clumsy dialogue and bewildering editing.  But there are moments of glory, and since I look at fandom through rose-colored lenses, I choose to focus on the glory.

But focusing became a bit tougher through those 3D glasses…

I know everyone is down on up converting movies into 3D, and I’m not a fan of the practice myself.  But I got giddy with anticipation when I heard Lucas was doing STAR WARS.  For all their flaws, these are the kind of movies that 3D was made for.  Big, fast, loud and in-your-face.  So I eagerly plopped down my cash, fit the glasses on and waited for the lights to dim.

The results were mixed.  The opening crawl pops with this real floating effect that was super cool.  Then the film started.  PHANTOM MENACE suffers from the nuts and bolts of that galaxy far, far way.  Two Jedi are dispatched to deal with a trade dispute.  Um… TRADE DISPUTE!?!?  This is STAR WARS, GEORGE!  Liam Neeson and Ewan McGregor totally anchor this film as Qui-gon and Obi-wan, and they pop very much to the foreground of their shots on the Trade Federation ship, but the rest of the backgrounds look… well, like backgrounds.  Almost like a flat view screen behind them.  And not a high definition plasma view screen, but a I-just-pulled-the-string-and-un-rolled-this-on-the-wall-of-my-school-for-an-asssymbly kinda screen.  The fights with the battle droids on the streets of Naboo were cool.  Escaping the blockade was cool.

The movie drags when we arrive on Tatooine and get bogged down in the Anakin and the middiclorian plot.  The ship is broke, they meet Anakin, he can help them win the parts they need by racing.  Might as well have yelled “Move along, nothing to see here!”  The pod race however, may be worth the price of admission by itself.  And, this is the DVD / blue ray print of the film, so the race is there in all three laps of orgasmic speed rush.

The arrival on Courriscant was cool, but then we bog down again in the interesting to watch but not fun to look at in 3D political mechanics.  I absolutely love how slimy and manipulative Palpatine is.  I marvel at watching him and his plans and schemes unfold, knowing what is coming, and cant look away anytime he’s on screen.  Ian McDiarmid is an acting wonder.

We return to Naboo to put an end to the blockade and find 3D effects make the lightsaber battle to be cool, but not as good as I would have imagined, the battle with the droid army to be cool, but not as good as I would have imagined, and the space battle to be a downright disappointment.  I was so looking forward to that, but as it un-spooled, I realized that in space there is no frame of reference for the 3D to create a background to pop out of, and the ships fly by so fast that I couldn’t tell if it was 3D or not anyway.  Surprisingly, the best part was Padme and troops fighting their way up to the palace throne room.  Those shots looked fantastic.

All-in-all it wasn’t a waste of money.  ANY excuse to see STAR WARS on the big screen is a worthwhile one.  But watching it in 3D wasn’t the religious experience I thought it would be.  YET.  Because all PHANTOM MENACE did was wet my appetite for the good ones to show up.

STAR WARS: EPISODE I: THE PHANTOM MENACE – Film – C+ / 3D – B-

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